The lives of four women are threatened when their husbands are killed during the course of a robbery gone wrong. The men they robbed want their money back - all $2 million of it - and they're holding the widows responsible. The only chance these women have of clearing the debt is to pull off their husband's next job. There's just one problem, they've never done anything like this before.
Writer/Director Steve McQueen, in his first project as director since 2013's 12 Years A Slave - and with the help of co-writer Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) - has managed to catch lightning in a bottle once again. Widows is a tense and gritty thriller in which crime, politics and corruption are entwined in a web of deception and betrayal. McQueen and Flynn have created a criminal underworld befitting the Chicago setting. It's shiny exterior hides the rotten core in which those with power feed on the weak.
Now you might think that sounds like an average day where crime and politics are concerned. But for the four main characters however (played brilliantly by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo) it's simply a matter of survival. These women hardly know each other, they don't even like each other that much. However, you can't choose your partner's work colleagues, or who they rip off, and without any other options, they just have to move forward together. Strong is a word I'd use to describe them, although I don't think they realise how strong they are until they're pushed. Seeing these downtrodden women discover that strength and pulling off what seems like the impossible, is where a lot of the enjoyment comes from.
The thing is, the widows aren't the only players in the game. On the one side you've got Jamal (Brian Tyree Henry) and Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) Manning, the men who want their money back. Henry and Kaluuya are terrifying as the criminal brothers. They instil fear in everyone, Kaluuya especially, who has a cold dead look behind his eyes. Henry's Jamal is running for political office, not because he wants to go straight or do good, but simply because he sees Chicago politics as more profitable. Standing in his way are Jack and Tom Mulligan (Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall). Jack is running against Jamal in the election, looking to take his father's place as Alderman of the local district. The Mulligans have been involved in the politics of Chicago for generations, in other words they're bent as fuck! Jamal doesn't just want that job, he wants the life and opportunities that it affords. Thanks to their botched robbery, the husbands (Liam Neeson, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Jon Bernthal, Coburn Goss) have dropped their widows in the middle of this family feud.
Ocean's Eight this ain't! If anything, it's amateur hour. There's no sophistication here, no glamour, just a brutal and realistic crime drama. The widows are underdogs in the truest sense of the word. Having never been involved in their husbands' business, they've been thrown in at the deep end, and in order to stay afloat they'll have to teach themselves to swim in these murky waters. A perfect example of this involves Elizabeth Debicki trying to buy guns and a van. She has no clue about either, so she simply goes with what she knows. But as the heist approaches, you can feel the tension increase. And through some incredible performances, you can see the effect it's having on our four amateur thieves.
Having not seen the original British TV series, I can't say how the movie compares. What I can say, is that if you're looking for an underdog story, a gripping crime drama or both, this is definitely a movie you should check out. Between the gritty story and the epic performances from this stellar cast, Widows is easily one of the best movies of 2018. I certainly have high hopes for Steve McQueen and co. come awards season.
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